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English: Symptoms of Stress

English: Symptoms of Stress (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The main object of these posts about fibromyalgia, is to break the illness down into its familiar parts to make it easier to think about each symptom and its treatment options. I realized some time ago that due to its many parts, symptoms, medications, and treatments, it is very common for one to be overwhelmed. I am sometimes overwhelmed, too, and so I know how each one of you feels when you get up in the morning and have to sort out your day amidst the confusion and pain, and you just do not know where to start. This only adds to the stress you already feel, and stress is an integral piece of the puzzle. Managing stress is a topic needing its own page.  I am not equipped to write about that at this time; but there are many books on the subject, or you may want to consult a psycho-therapist or other professional counselor.

One thing I do in the morning is a gentle stretch for about five minutes. It gets the mind and body working. I then go into more physical activity – exercise with balance, getting a protein-filled breakfast, and planning my day.

So far in this series, I have written a book review discussing the science of this illness, and I have laid out my own severe problems with medications. In the previous blog, I introduced the idea of selecting your healing team. I added another person to my team, a massage therapist trained in myofascial release, a preferred alternative to medications. There will be more on that in a few weeks after I have studied this fantastic book I purchased on the subject, and experienced the therapy. So there is the doctor, myself, and the massage therapist; and now I add one more to my team.

This team member could be a nutritionist or a doctor trained in nutrition, or myself.  I have chosen to arm myself with information and the self-confidence to move forward into this realm of healing. This is an activity over which we have much control, and I think it is more comfortable and less intimidating than medical terminology. I hope I have the self-discipline to follow through and find comfort and healing in the foods I choose, but like any “diet,” it may have its tough moments.

I found “The Fibromyalgia Cookbook” Second Edition, by Shelley Ann Smith (2009) and decided that it is a good and simple guide to the foods appropriate for the fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome patient. The Foreword is written by two doctors, who address the issues of inflammation and food intolerances and how they contribute to the pain, fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome, and other serious medical conditions.

The recipes are simple and easy to prepare and use commonly held foods in your pantry and refrigerator.  There are other books on the market that address these issues, but I found this to be very easy to understand and to use for meal planning. These recipes employ fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and dairy; they substitute products you can use for those you cannot, such as spelt flour for wheat flour, for example. The doctors also describe how to employ an elimination and challenge diet to assist in finding your food sensitivities and allergies. Diet is only one component of the picture, but it is something you can control and give yourself some relief from pain and fatigue.

Now I know what you must be thinking.  All these “team” members cost a lot of money. How many more do you have in mind, anyway, Joyce?  Believe me, I understand that question. It is why I am personally getting as much free information and help I can, such as the above diet (nearly free anyway), other books by experts, and negotiating with other providers. For example, I told the massage therapist that I could not afford to see him every week (he is pretty pricey), and I suggested that I see him perhaps once a month. He told me that would be fine, and he would give me instructions in home therapy. That sounded very reasonable to me, and we’ll see how that works. I am now reading a book on the subject by well-known experts in the field of Trigger Points and Myofascial Release. I find it very exciting information, and I will review that book later on. My goal, of course, is to get rid of pain without using pain medications, a utopian goal perhaps, but achievable.

Remember that you are managing this team. It takes perseverance and work, but it will be worth it in the end if it improves your health. I don’t expect my primary care physician to know everything about this illness, and that is why a team approach (with his permission) seems a good solution. (The medical profession calls it integrative medicine.) It would be counter-productive to have too many “team members,” but having two or three specialists on your team may help you to sort out the many symptoms you are facing. You must keep your physician in the loop, informing him or her of all you are doing. Keep up to date on new research and findings, because the scene continues to change, and there are yet unknown healing options just around the corner.

To further illuminate the team approach, let’s look at the football metaphor for a moment. Most of you probably know something about football, so it is easy to see how bringing specialists onto your team assists in your understanding and in meeting your goals. This is an example of how you might build your team.

Coach                               Your Physician
Quarterback                     You, the patient
Other team members
     Running back               Massage therapist
     Wide receiver              Psycho-therapist
     End                             Nutritionist
     Tackle                         Sleep disorder Specialist
And don’t forget some cheerleaders for your team, the more the better, to cheer you on, lend an understanding heart, lift you up when you fall, make you laugh – you know, good lifetime friends.

All team members, including the quarterback, report back to the Coach. He needs to know what you are doing, so that your team is on track to meet the goals you have set. As quarterback, you assume the role of reporting in, but the others may do so if medically necessary. As I said before, there is no need for many team members. It can be overwhelming in itself, and may be cost prohibitive. But I thought it would be fun to illustrate more graphically what you as the patient can do to reach your goal – which is WELLNESS.


Health (Photo credit: 401(K) 2012)